It’s Saturday, which means it’s time to open up the dance floor to a Guest Deb! Today we welcome Alison Heller, author of THE LOVE WARS. Currently a divorce lawyer, Alison lives in New York with her husband and two young daughters. THE LOVE WARS is her first novel. Here is a little about the book:
Breaking up is hard to do. At least the first few times.
Even though Molly Grant has only a handful of relationships behind her, she’s already been through more divorces than she can count.
At the premier Manhattan law firm where she’s a matrimonial attorney, the hours are long, the bosses tyrannical, and the bonuses stratospheric. Her clients are rich, famous, and used to getting their way. Molly’s job—and primary concern in life—is to work as hard as possible to make sure they do. Until she meets the client who changes everything….
Fern Walker is the desperate former wife of a ruthless media mogul. Her powerful ex is slowly pushing her out of her young children’s lives, and she fears losing them forever. Molly—haunted by an incident from her own past—finds herself unable to walk away from Fern and sets out to help her. She just needs to do it without her bosses finding out.
Now, as complications both professional and personal stack up, Molly can only hope that her own wits, heart, and instincts are enough—both in and out of court.
Alison has offered to do a little Q&A with us this morning, so pull up a chair, curl up with your coffee, and join us in welcoming Alison to the Ball!
As an author have you ever been star struck by meeting one of your favorite authors? If so who was it?
I met Susan Isaacs once briefly in upstate New York. I’m a huge fan of hers, but out of respect for the fact that she was on vacation with her family, I tried to play it cool. (Not really a strength of mine, playing it cool, but I think it went alright.)
Do you prefer to write during the day or during the night?
In an ideal world, I would wake up, have a lovely fortifying breakfast and, clean and alert, sit at the computer with a perfect music playlist. (All other noise would be obliterated through a cone of silence.) In reality, I write whenever I can, except late at night. I generally shut down at eight p.m., and to accomplish anything after that—writing or otherwise—I have to be pushed beyond my normal level of motivation (i.e., scared of missing a deadline or completely in the throes of the story.)
When becoming an author, did you have any speed bumps along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
Yes, for sure – perhaps the biggest speed bump to becoming an author was those thirteen years I focused solely on getting a law degree and being a lawyer. (What was a I thinking?) I’m kidding, of course (a little bit). I still enjoy lawyering, but there’s something very satisfying about the creative outlet of writing.
Even after clearing away the space and time to write, there have been bumps along the way – rejections and self-doubt and frustrations with everything from the writing process to some industry practices. Overcoming them, thus far, has been pretty simple. I just listen to that little voice that wants to keep writing and continue, however slowly, over the speed bumps.
What 5 things do you have to have with you when you are writing?
Very pertinent question! I live in New York City where space is at a premium. My writing desk is the size of a postage stamp and in my bedroom, so I take to the streets a lot and before today might have answered this question by saying, just my computer. After today, when I sat at a coffee shop completely surrounded on all sides by vocal and enthusiastic Italian tourists (seriously, about 12 of them, all with shiny hair and lovely scarves), I revise. I need:
1. Background noise not to exceed 110 passionate decibels
2. My computer
3. My phone, to rest my fears that nothing is happening to one of my children while I’m absorbed writing
4. The Internet for quick research and breaks
5. Pants. I think I would be distracted otherwise.
What is next on your plate?
I have a book coming out through Penguin/NAL next year and I’m really excited about it. And I’ve started drafting the next one after that.
Thanks so much for joining us, Alison!
Alison has offered to give away a copy of THE LOVE WARS to one lucky reader (US only)! Just tell us in the comments — have *you* ever had a tyrannical boss?
Visit Alison’s web site Find Alison on Facebook Follow Alison on Twitter
Please join us in welcoming author Caroline Leavitt to the Ball this weekend! Caroline is the New York Times bestselling author of PICTURES OF YOU, which was one of the best Books of 2011 from the San Francisco Chronicle, The Providence Journal, Bookmarks and Kirkus. Her new novel IS THIS TOMORROW is a May Indie Next Pick, that Vanity Fair has called “riveting.” You can find more about her at carolineleavitt.com.
Since we’ve been talking covers all week, Caroline decided to give us her take on cover art. Take it away, Caroline!
Can you tell a book by its cover?
Covers count. That’s the truth. But the other truth is that often they are out of your hands. Covers are actually a marketing decision and sometimes what the author wants is not what the publisher has in mind. The sales force weighs in, the top honchos. Everyone wants your book to sell as much as you do. I had even heard rumors that the head book buyer at Barnes and Noble would weigh in on a cover, as well.
I’ve been lucky with most of my covers, though no one has ever asked my advice until I got to Algonquin. For my novel Coming Back to Me, the hardcover was this dark beauty. It looked like an Edward Hopper painting of a young father feeding a bottle to baby late at night in a diner. Behind him, the night sky was spangled with stars. Perfect, right? But for the paperback, they went in a softer direction. The cover was pink and green, with a bathrobe hanging on a hook and in an inset of a GQ looking smiling guy carrying flowers. Now, in this particular book, the main male character was taking care of his newborn child because his wife was mysteriously ill. There was no way on earth he’d be smiling! I called my agent upset. She called the publisher but they refused to change anything except to make the guy’s smile a little less bright. Ever since then, when people ask about that book, I show them only the hardcover. That terrible paperback still haunts me.
You want a cover that will make people curious. You want a cover that has something to do with the novel itself. I loved the cover of my novel Girls in Trouble about open adoption, which showed a pair of young legs walking on a fence, but I would have loved it more if the legs were so disembodied, if there had been a whole figure.
When I got to Algonquin, I told them how I worried about my covers and they assured me that I would never have to have a cover I hated. And they asked my input. They showed me sketches and gave me choices.
For Is This Tomorrow, my editor and I knew we wanted something eerie, haunting and literary. I kept seeing an image of a boy running across a lawn, maybe in shadow. Andra, my editor, thought that might not be unique enough. And then I found a photograph, black and white, 1950s looking, of a mother and three kids looking up at the eclipse with special glasses! It even had the right sexes of the kids to fit in with my novel! Even better, Andra happened to know the photographer. I thought everything was all set, but then Andra called a few weeks later to tell me they were going in another direction and would I take a look.
Of course I was panicked.
But then I saw the cover. An eerie, unsettling image of two hands holding a box, and inside the box–right there–is the running boy I wanted. The whole cover, too, was this strange suburban green. Like grass on a hot summer day. I loved it. In fact, the truth is, I loved it so much, I bought a spring coat to match it, and I’m now wearing it on tour.
We are excited to be sharing the blog with Marci Nault today. Marci is the author of THE LAKE HOUSE, available next week everywhere books are sold. She’s also the creator of 101dreamscometrue.com, an inspiring site that will have you dreaming of life lists and wondering what you might be capable of reaching for–not someday but today. Today, Marci shares a very inspiring reflection on her debut process and the powerful connection between risk-takers.
I’m honored to guest blog today on the Debutante Ball. I’m a Deb this year, and I’ve come to this site many times to read the Deb’s blogs.
In my debut novel, The Lake House, the main character, Victoria Rose, leaves behind the man she loves and her close community of friends for a bigger life at the age of nineteen. Afraid her family will never accept her choice of becoming an actress in Hollywood, she stays away until at seventy-four she comes home with tremendous regret and the desperate need to make amends.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about what happens to a woman when she chooses a different path. With all our advancement in the world women still expect certain behavior from other women.
Five years ago, my life turned upside down and instead of fighting for the man I’d planned on marrying I chose to pursue my own dreams. I made a life-list of 101 Dreams Come True that I wanted to experience; to live in Tuscany; raft the Futaleufu in Chile; go to private parties in Napa; travel the world solo; become a published author; and many more. I wanted to experience the adventures that characters had shown me through many wonderful novels.
When I chose this path many women supported me when they thought I was in my early twenties, but when I told them that I was in my mid-thirties they were confrontational. “You know no man will want you after a certain age. You’re eggs are getting older, don’t you want children? You’re going to regret this decision someday.”
My close friends and family made jokes about me never marrying and no matter how much I loved my life it always came down to the question, “So do you even have a boyfriend? You better choose a man fast or you’ll be alone forever.” These words plagued my decision to follow my journey, but they didn’t stop me.
I write this here, because it’s rather appropriate when talking about Debs. There was a time when women were presented to society in the hopes of finding a suitable husband to take care of them and their placement in life was who they married. Now, we present each other to society as artists, writers, businesswomen, and those simply taking chances.
For me, the most exciting part of being a debut novelist has been the support of other writers. Instead of clamoring for position and pushing each other down, we support one another with blogs like this one, tweets and Facebook posts, buying our writing friends’ books, and giving encouragement when needed. Everyday I picture the other female writers I’ve met all standing at the edge of a cliff wearing parachutes and holding hands. We run together towards the edge with the attitude – I jump, you jump, but no one has to jump alone.
I wonder how Victoria’s story would’ve changed if her friends had accepted her decision, known that she loved them even though she had to do her own thing. There’s a moment between Victoria and the man she left behind, Joseph, when he explains why her friends are so angry with her:
“You’ve suffered so deeply and lived fuller than anyone I know. Not one of us ever left the safety of this place. When someone lives as brightly as you, it’s hard for all of us in the shadows, because it reminds us of the dreams and chances we didn’t take. That’s where the real anger lies.”
I know other women are concerned about my happiness but do their comments also come from their own fear about what they haven’t done?
I believe that the reason female writers are so comfortable holding hands and helping one another is because we know what it means to take that risk, put ourselves out there standing a little naked before the world, and to try to live as brightly as we can.
Preorder THE LAKE HOUSE at your favorite bookseller, and don’t miss a visit to Marci’s terrific website here: http://101dreamscometrue.com/wordpress/
The Debutante Ball is thrilled to welcome back former Deb Sarah Pekkanen! Sarah is the internationally-bestselling author of four novels, including THE BEST OF US, which won a starred Publishers Weekly review and is the Marie Claire book pick for April. Hailed as a “rising star” by publications including Library Journal, her novels are often compared to those by Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin. Her books have won rave reviews from People magazine, Entertainment Weekly, O the Oprah magazine, Booklist, Cosmopolitan, Glamour magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She is an occasional book reviewer for The Washington Post and is the back-page columnist for Bethesda Magazine.
Sarah has been so kind as to share an excerpt with us from her latest book, THE BEST OF US, which has received the following advance praise:
“The perfect book to curl up with on a rainy day.” Maire Claire Magazine
“Fans of Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin will strongly appreciate this rising star in women’s fiction.” Library Journal
“A deeply enjoyable page-turner.” Publishers Weekly STARRED review
Please join us in welcoming Sarah and enjoy this sneak peek into her latest novel!
Tina Antonelli stared at the heavy, cream-colored invitation like it was a loose diamond she’d found in the sandbox at the neighborhood playground. No, it was even more valuable than a diamond, she decided as she leaned against her kitchen counter and felt her nightgown-clad hip squish into something. Grape jelly, she thought absently, recalling her early-morning frenzy of sandwich-making for school lunches. She re-read the first line of calligraphy:
Please join us in celebrating Dwight’s 35th birthday!
Dwight Glass. Her old friend. How could he be turning 35 when she still pictured him at 20: thin and awkward as a praying mantis, with a shock of brown hair always falling into his eyes? Dwight had lived in one of the coveted private rooms that encircled the grassy quad at the University of Virginia. While other students had tossed around Frisbees or footballs on the sprawling lawn, the guys shirtless in the springtime and the girls wearing bright miniskirts or sundresses, Dwight rarely ventured past the little awning in front of his room. He always seemed to be sitting in a straight-backed chair, wearing an oxford shirt with one too many buttons done up, a thick textbook on his lap.
Our plane departs from Dulles International Airport on Sunday, August 18 at 10 a.m. and returns Saturday, August 25 at 5 p.m.
“Our plane,” Tina said, the words as airy and sweet in her mouth as a spoonful of chocolate mousse. She’d heard that Dwight had bought his own Gulfstream a few years ago.
“Mommy?” a hoarse voice called from the living room. “I need you!”
“Just a sec, honey,” she said.
We’ll stay in a villa in Jamaica that comes with a chef who will fulfill all of our culinary requests. You can choose to surf or snorkel, take a helicopter tour of the island – or do absolutely nothing but relax on a private beach and lift a champagne glass for the birthday toast.
A little moan escaped from Tina’s lips. A cook. A private beach. Champagne. She envisioned a whitewashed villa with floor-to-ceiling windows thrown open to reveal a white sand beach; white couches in the living room – and on the beds, crisp white sheets. Everything could be white because she wouldn’t have to worry about four small children and one large dog spilling, shedding, messing and breaking.
“MOMMY!” Or yelling.
She imagined herself in a new bathing suit, bronzed like the girls in the Ban De Soleil ads, and mentally erased the pouch of her belly and the crow’s feet framing her eyes. Why not? She was being offered the trip of a lifetime, from a guy she’d kissed once in college (alcohol was involved, of course; lots of alcohol and dim lighting and the bittersweet knowledge that graduation was just around the corner) and who had drifted in and out of her life in the decade and a half since then. Anything was possible.
Photo credit: Nina Subin
A graduate of the School of Journalism at Columbia University, Becky Aikman was a writer and editor for Business Week and a reporter for Newsday. She lives in New York City. She joins us today in honor of the runaway success of The Saturday Night Widows, the story of six marriages, six heartbreaks, and one shared beginning. In her forties – a widow, too young, too modern to accept the role – Becky Aikman struggled to make sense of her place in an altered world. In this transcendent and infectiously wise memoir, she explores surprising new discoveries about how people experience grief and transcend loss and, following her own remarriage, forms a group with five other young widows to test these unconventional ideas. Together, these friends summon the humor, resilience, and striving spirit essential for anyone overcoming adversity.
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
The Nancy Drew series that I read as a kid. Nancy was so intrepid. She taught me not to be passive, not to wait for help, but to solve my own problems. Whenever I encounter adversity, I try to think like Nancy Drew, Girl Detective – seek out information and act on it.
Talk about one thing that’s making you happy right now.
I know it’s supposed to be a grind publicizing a book, but for me, there’s been a delightful perk: plenty of occasions to get together with all the Saturday Night Widows. The first time I gathered the six of us three years ago, I was afraid the whole idea was a big mistake. We were ridiculously different personalities, and the one thing we had in common was not the sort of thing that lights a fire under a party.
But after a year of sharing all of our adventures, not to mention a lot of laughter and a few tears, we became devoted friends. In the last few weeks, we’ve been seeing even more of each other, as the women have all been generous with their time, appearing on shows and giving interviews to help me promote the book. It’s been another round of fresh adventures, which was our goal when we formed our renegade group. And how can I be nervous when we’re clowning around together in the green room of the Katie Couric show? I recommend that all authors bring their best buddies along on book tours.
Where do you love to be?
Anyplace new. One thing I learned in the course of researching my book is that sharing new experiences with friends is one of the best ways to move forward in difficult times. That’s why we were determined that the Saturday Night Widows would take a faraway trip together, to go someplace we’d never been before. Mastering a new place, we figured, would give us the confidence to master the whole new world we were facing back home. It worked! And the hilarity when we all mounted camels in the desert was worth the entire trip.
What are the hardest and easiest things abut your job?
The hardest thing was probably organizing all of our get-togethers. Managing six people with different tastes, different personalities and busy schedules was a challenge. I think that’s a reason why it’s hard to maintain friendships in the course of the hectic lives we all lead today. There were many potential splits in the group. The girly girls, for example, were always pushing to get pampered at a spa or go shopping for lingerie together. (Hey, we were starting to date again after years of marriage – we needed whatever boost we could get.) But the active ones wanted to cook an ambitious meal or take a vigorous hike.
The easiest thing about the job? Enjoying all the fun we had once we agreed to compromise. Going outside our individual comfort zones opened everyone up, which made it easier to cope with all the serious changes we had to consider as we reinvented our lives – like reworking our relationships with families and friends, creating new homes, looking for romance again, or trying to turn those romances into a long-term relationships.
To get all that done, we knew we needed to broaden our thinking. So we took those vigorous hikes, but we wore great underwear doing it.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Get started. Stop thinking about it and sit down and write. If you can’t come up with the right idea, do some research. Think Nancy Drew.
Thanks for being here, Becky!
Get in touch with the author here:
You can find a copy of The Saturday Night Widows at:
Samantha Wilde is the author of I’ll Take What She Has and This Little Mommy Stayed Home. The at-home mother of three small children, she moonlights as a minister and a yoga teacher. She is the graduate of Smith College and Yale Divinity School and the daughter of novelist Nancy Thayer.
In I’ll Take What She Has, Nora and Annie have been best friends since kindergarten. Nora, a shy English teacher at a quaint New England boarding school, longs to have a baby. Annie, an outspoken stay-at-home mother of two, longs for one day of peace and quiet (not to mention more money and some free time). Despite their very different lives, nothing can come between them—until Cynthia Cypress arrives on campus.
Cynthia has it all: brains, beauty, impeccable style, and a gorgeous husband (who happens to be Nora’s ex). When Cynthia eagerly befriends Nora, Annie’s oldest friendship is tested. Now, each woman must wrestle the green-eyed demon of envy and, in the process, confront imperfect, mixed-up family histories they don’t want to repeat. Amid the hilarious and harried straits of friendship, marriage, and parenthood, the women may discover that the greenest grass is right beneath their feet.
Sam takes the Deb Interview with us today. Thanks for joining us, Sam! Tell us, which animal would you like to be, and why?
You only need to come to my house to find out the answer to this one! I have quite a collection of frogs (none alive). I find a frog, contrary to popular opinion, not a slimy bit of a thing, but elegant and inspirational. I love how a tadpole becomes a frog. The idea of metamorphosis appeals to me (and was a prominent part of one of the early drafts of I’ll Take What She Has. It’s still in there, but more subtle). I’m fascinated by the possibility of something changing so completely and yet simultaneously remaining internally the same. There’s a moment when a tadpole hasn’t quite become a frog when it has legs and a tail. It’s my sense that life is so much like a frog process! We are always becoming and if we allow for it, we really can transform into a new creature.
Do you have a regular ‘first reader’? If so, who is it and why that person?
My mother, novelist Nancy Thayer, has been a first reader for me for almost as long as I can remember. I don’t know how she does it, actually. I think it must be hard to deliver effective criticism to your own adult child, yet she does it. She was the first one to look at the first pages of This Little Mommy Stayed Home. “This is the one,” she said. Of course, she was right! I have sent her material that she doesn’t like or enjoy. She’ll go over the manuscript with me page by page, taking a break from editing one of her own novels. We don’t have the same voice. I’m more of a comic novelist. But I know I’ve done something right when my mother laughs. I’m pretty lucky to have her because she knows me, she knows writing and she knows the publishing industry.
Which talent do you wish you had?
Oh, I wish I could dance. Really dance. Up on the stage, applause at the end kind of dance. Dance has weaved its way through my life in so many different forms. As an older child and a tween I studied ballet quite seriously up until I discovered (after they measured my bones!) that not even my formidable starvation would change the shape of my body to turn me into a proper ballerina. Later, as a teenager and in my early twenties, I found dance clubs. I would go for hours. I can still remember standing on a six foot tall black speaker at a club in Urbana, Illinois wearing my Doc Martens and tee-shirt over a long sleeve shirt (so the fashion, then) wild with dance. Sometimes I think I became a yoga teacher because practicing yoga gives me the same sense of abandon and joy. If fulfills that desire to move, to move lyrically, to be embodied, and find freedom in the body. I dance with my children all the time, all kinds of ways, all kinds of music. They laugh at me. We laugh at each other. It’s pure joy.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Write your heart out. Put everything you go through into your work. Don’t write for an audience—not yet. Write what’s coming out of you that you can’t keep inside. Sometimes, when I need to write, I can almost feel myself, like a volcano about to burst. Then, once I’ve written, some of the work gets read by others, some doesn’t. In the end, the process counts. It has to count. It has to be its own reward for each of us. It’s simple, of course, to say write because you love to write. But simple things are the best kind, aren’t they? Don’t worry what becomes of your work, not while you write. Think of that tadpole. The transformation happens first to the writer. If we get lucky and our book finds readers, it may happen for them also, but it doesn’t need to. Writing is a kind of alchemy, and the writer is the first, and often the only, recipient of the magic.
Magic indeed. We’re so glad Samantha Wilde joined us at the ball today and shared these insights. To learn more about her, visit her website, watch her book trailer, and go like her on facebook. Her status updates are fantastic!
*** WIN A FREE BOOK! DETAILS BELOW!***
Deb Kelly here: I’m honored to introduce Ellen Meister, a witty, incisive author I’ve followed since her first novel. Ellen is the author of The Other Life, The Smart One, and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA. She has held editorial positions at SmokeLong Quarterly and DimeStories. Meister teaches creative writing at Hofstra University School of Continuing Education and runs an online group where she mentors aspiring women authors.
Her latest work, FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER, was released on Thursday. About it, Publisher’s Weekly said, “Meister skillfully translates the rapier-like wit of the Algonquin Round Table to modern-day New York … [with] pathos, nuanced characters, plenty of rapid-fire one-liners, and a heart-rending denouement.” I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Parker fan who won’t want to gobble this one up.
Thanks for joining us, Ellen! Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
That would have to be The Portable Dorothy Parker, a collection of the great wit’s writing. I was in my tender teens when I ran smack into her bold, perceptive, laser-sharp viewpoint and I’ve never been the same. In some ways, I’ve carried her around with me ever since,wondering what she would think of the people in my life and this perplexing modern world.
And of course, my career has felt the impact. Here’s how it happened: One day, when I noticed how many novels were devoted to the brilliant Jane Austen, I wondered why no other beloved woman author got similar treatment. ‘Someone should do that for Dorothy Parker,’ I thought. Then I realized that someone was me … and that on some level, I’d been planning this book almost all my life.
What time of day do you love best?
Mornings are glorious. The day is nothing but promises–anything is possible when all those hours are stretched out before me. I’m also at my most creative in the wee hours, which is why I wake up at 5 am to write.
Share something that’s always guaranteed to make you laugh.
God, my kids. At 21, 18 and 15, they are the funniest humans on the planet.
What is the best perk of your job?
That’s easy. Fan mail. It’s like crack for my ego.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
The writer’s worst enemy is impatience. (I know, because I suffer from it.) Writing is an arduous process, rewriting even more so. But if you rush any part of it your work suffers. So take your time, and don’t submit until you’ve shown it to one or two beta readers. Then put it away for a bit before rewriting. Your subconscious will do a lot of the work for you, and when you go back to rewrite your perspective will be focused and fresh.
If you’d like to learn more about Ellen Meister and Farewell, Dorothy Parker, find her on Facebook, Twitter, and visit her website here. You can also follow her popular Dorothy Parker Facebook page. Click here for ordering links.
And don’t forget to comment below to get a chance to win one free copy (US addresses only) from the author! So tell us: Is impatience your worst enemy? Or are you a model of patience and poise?